- - - “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God
- - - - and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—
- - - - though he is not far from any one of us.
- - - For in him we live and move and exist.
- - - As some of your own poets have said,
- - - - ‘We are his offspring.’
- - - - And since this is true,
- - - - - we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.
- - - - God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times,
- - - - - but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins
- - - - - and turn to him. (Acts 17:27-30)
If God is close or not far from any one of us; every single person on earth – then how is it hard for us to find Him? Isn’t there a touch of irony about this? The “us” that Paul is referring to are both Jews and Gentiles. Jews, Greeks, Romans, Epicureans, Stoics, even those who worship God despite not knowing Who He is (the Unknown God). God is close to us all; well at least not far from anyone of us. But not far does not mean that you have found him. There is still separation. Theologians talk of the “thin veil of separation”. God could manifest Himself at any moment to any one of us. The issue is will He? Paul describes everyone as being “in Him” i.e. being in God. God is the Being Who penetrates and embraces everything and everyone. Paul’s “life and breath and everything” of verse 25 is now replaced with the “live and move and have our being” of verse 28. The three verbs [zomen] “to live”, [kinometha] “to move” and [esmen] “to be” or “to have existence”. These verbs have escalated the meaning from verse 25 to verse 28 to reach a climax in this statement. Yet Paul is still talking to Greek philosophers, Epicureans and Stoics. How can this be?
Paul says even your poets agree: that we are his offspring. But what does that mean? The Mormons would say of this verse that we are God’s offspring and therefore we are like gods and will one day rules worlds. That is not what Paul is saying to these Greek philosophers. Let’s define the terms clearly. Part of the pitfall of dealing with the cults or vain philosophies of man is the clarity of the terms we use. We are His [genos] “offspring”. [genos] race, descendants, stock, even children in the sense in which John meant it in John 1:12. We come from Him, He made us. This refers to all that Paul has said between 17:26-28. “Since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.” Don’t think of this in a pantheistic way. We didn't come into being through the work of our hands; in a similar way to which you have made gods (little g). We are the result of His work. We owe our coming into being to Him and His work. The Stoics would certainly have thought of this in the pantheistic way much like the Mormons have taken it and twisted it.
What Paul actually tells these learned men not to be ignorant. The word used is agnosia from which we get agnostic. Agnosia comes from the combination of the prefix a- attached to the word gnosia or knowledge. The a is a negative prefix which changes the meaning of the root of the word to mean the opposite. So in this case "being knowledgable" becomes "lacking knowledge". Paul is calling these well-educated, well-read men "those who lack knowledge" or in other words ignorant or stupid. Ouch. Low blow Paul but nonetheless true. Remember this the next time you meet someone who tells you they are an "agnostic".
Paul says God overlooked people’s ignorance over years or centuries (chronos). It is not that God is like the gods you display around the Agora. God is divine in essence and nature, not like the idols designed of silver and gold or stone you see around you. God is not like that, therefore we are not like that. God lives and breathes within us. We are of a different nature, designed by God not man. As the Giver of Life we are created in His image and after His likeness. In that sense we are His offspring, His created beings. We live and move in Him and His breath is in us. God overlooked mans' foolishness until the Messiah appeared. Now the Saviour of the World has come it is time for the world to wake up.
Now God commands, requires, everyone everywhere to repent, turn their life direction around, change their mindset and be converted to God’s way. This is in opposition to way the Greeks thought of the gods. The Greek gods observed, looked down on human kind but were uninvolved. They required nothing of us. God doesn't look down on humankind with indifference; He requires something. “In God” is not the same as “in Christ” – these are terms that Paul uses with deep meaning. Paul is effectively saying, now is the time for me to tell you about this Unknown God you worship and His requirements for His creation because He has set a day when He will judge the world on His terms not yours.
Suddenly Paul’s tone has changed from the gods and anything goes to the requirements of this Unknown God you worship but you don't know. This God is quite unlike the pantheistic gods they knew – detached and uninterested. THIS GOD will judge the world according to His requirements. Don't you want to know His terms? The way in which you can get to know Him?
The longer you hold something the heavier it feels.
There comes a time when your worldview needs to yield and give way to God’s view.
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. Oscar Wilde
When someone is talking to you, stop preparing your response & take in what they are saying. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Ian
Being saved is not a matter of getting you to heaven; it’s the moment of realizing you were God’s all along and knowing now that you have to yield to His reign in you. Ian
God is not disinterested in you; He made you. He has the hairs on your head numbered. He is waiting for the moment when you recognize that and start living for Him. Ian